“It is a wearily familiar syndrome normally practised by men who believe that their view of the justice of a situation should prevail over that of a court of law”
So said Mr Justice Mostyn in the course of his recent judgment in the case M v F, referring to the policy of non-engagement with the court adopted by the father in the case. I, too, am weary of reading of such cases, although thankfully I no longer have to actually deal with them myself.
I have said here on many occasions that if you are involved in family court proceedings you should engage with the court and comply with its orders and requirements. Failure to do so will only in the end work against you, no matter how strongly you feel that you are right and the court is wrong. Sadly, no matter how often I and many others repeat this message, there will always be some who think they know best.
M v F concerned (amongst other things) a child maintenance application by the mother, in a case where the children were resident in France and therefore child support was not available via the Child Maintenance Service. As indicated, the feature of the case, at least thus far as it is still continuing, is the behaviour of the father.
The judgment relates to a hearing on the 23rd of May, which Mr Justice Mostyn fixed to consider the questions of interim substantive maintenance whilst the case was continuing, and ordering the father to pay a further lump sum to cover the mother’s costs. Considering that it would be unfair to the father to ‘spring’ these matters on him at an earlier hearing dealing with another issue (at which the father had failed to attend anyway, in breach of the rules), Mr Justice Mostyn fixed the hearing on the 23rd of May. When doing so, he specifically ordered the father to attend the hearing on the 23rd of May in person.
The father again failed to attend and also failed to pay sums that Mr Justice Mostyn had ordered him to pay. He was therefore doubly in contempt of court.
Further, the father instructed his solicitors to write a final letter to the mother’s solicitors which stated that: “The father cannot afford to remain within these proceedings and therefore will be withdrawing from the proceedings.” As Mr Justice Mostyn pointed out, that was a flat lie. The father is an exceedingly rich man, having admitted to the court in a statement that the total resources potentially available to him were “around £100 million”. The letter also indicated that the father intended to relocate to America.
Mr Justice Mostyn said (and I will purposely quote this in full):
“It is obvious that the father has now decided to adopt a policy of non-engagement and has decided that he will defy the authority of this court. It is a wearily familiar syndrome normally practised by men who believe that their view of the justice of a situation should prevail over that of a court of law, and who engage in self-help with an arrogant and contemptuous disregard for the rule of law and the authority of the court. Time and again this syndrome is demonstrated, and time and again (although delays and expense are often incurred) the court’s order is, by virtue of reciprocal enforcement in other jurisdictions, almost invariably enforced.”
He went on to explain that the father’s ‘policy’ was not a recent development.
For example, he wrote this to the mother last autumn:
“If you take this matter to court, I will put up a severe and protracted fight and you will get the absolute minimum. Think it over. It will take a few years to play out. I will be unrelenting and highly motivated because your behaviour is deeply immoral and there is nothing I dislike more.”
As Mr Justice Mostyn said, the arrogance of such statements was remarkable, but: “one has seen these so often and the court always deals with them in precisely the same way. The court is not intimidated or overawed by aggressive, hostile, intimidating threats of this nature. The court is here to mete out justice and mete out justice it will, and ultimately, its orders will be enforced. Of that, there can be no doubt.”
In addition to the above, the father had filed a Form E financial statement that indicated, in complete contradiction to his earlier statement, that his assets were only worth some £9 million. The inevitable conclusion reached by Mr Justice Mostyn was that the contents of Form E were deliberately untrue.
In short, Mr Justice Mostyn found that the father was a man of great wealth who could well afford to support his children properly pending a final hearing. He, therefore, ordered him to pay, by 4pm on the 25th of May, arrears of child support of €74,000. He also ordered him to pay €100,000 expenses in relation to a rental property that would be obtained by the mother, and the sum of £215,000 in respect of future legal fees.
The moral is crystal clear: engage with the court and comply with its orders and requirements. The court knows best, not you. Failure to do as the court wills is unlikely to ultimately prevent the court getting its way. On the other hand, it is very likely to seriously damage your case and to cost you considerably, both financially and, where children are involved, in terms of your relationship with them.
You can read the full judgment here.